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Feds vow to upgrade passenger rail in London region, but details remain on track




Weeks after Ottawa announced it would begin a procurement process for a multibillion-dollar high-frequency rail project linking Quebec City and Toronto, federal officials announced Wednesday that improvements are also underway for the remainder of the busy corridor. transportation, stretching from Toronto to southwestern Ontario.

However, the details of what improvements can be booked, when those improvements can be made, and how much the improvements can cost are not yet known.

During a news conference Wednesday outside London VIA Railway Station, Omar Alghabra, Canada’s transport minister, said the federal government was working to determine how the passenger railroad in southwest Ontario could be improved to provide better service.

Alghabra was joined outside the train station by London Mayor Ed Holder, Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan and local MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Kate Young.

“We will work with VIA Rail, the Office of the Joint High Frequency Rail Project and the Bank of Canada Infrastructure on this project,” he said, adding that the province will also be part of the discussions and that any southwestern rail improvements of Ontario will be integrated with Toronto-Quebec City plans.

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“Our government knows there is a demand for enhanced passenger rail services in southwestern Ontario. E We know that the improved passenger railroad in this region would provide better passenger opportunities while also improving the economic growth of communities across railway network. “

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Fed Decides to Start Procurement Process for Toronto-Quebec City High Frequency Railroad Corridor

Standing on the podium, Mayor Holder said he was excited about the transport minister’s announcement, saying it was “an acknowledgment that London matters. And if London matters, that means Sarnia and Windsor matter, too.” and that’s extremely important. “

“London has the fourth busiest passenger terminal in all of Canada. (She) needs that support, she needs that service. And I look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, to be able to do the same kinds of announcements in London we have from Toronto to Quebec City. “

The Toronto-Quebec City high-frequency project announced earlier this month would see passenger trains travel at up to 200km / h with reliability increasing to 95 per cent from the current 67 per cent on the route, allowing growth of train frequency.

The high-frequency rail was chosen over the high-speed rail, where trains would travel much faster, as the high-speed rail would be more costly and would take longer to complete, the government said.

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Officials were questioned Wednesday about the lack of details of the local notice, including a timeline, for both further information and possible improvements, as well as cost. The announcement time also comes amid rumors of a possible summer federal election.

“This will come with the further study we will conduct now,” Alghabra said.

“We want to get a more reliable, more frequent and faster service. These are the questions we are asking in this exploration or this study now: how can we get there? How can we become more frequent, reliable and faster?… Once we get an answer to those questions, we can give you time limits and costs. “

North London MP Peter Fragiskatos said the federal government had “placed a clear commitment” on improving rail service in the London area.

“Today we make it clear, crystal clear to the people of the city, that London needs to see much improved rail service. The details need to be worked out, of course, but London could have been ignored. “It was ignored by the previous government, but this is another story I will not go into,” he said.

“The main thing is that we have taken a turn here for good. London is mentioned here in a very serious way and we will see improved rail service as a result.”

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Click to play video: 'Plan for high-frequency railroad between Toronto, Quebec City sparks more election speculation'

Plan for high-frequency railroad between Toronto, Quebec City sparks more election speculation

Plan for high-frequency railroad between Toronto, Quebec City sparks more election speculation on July 6, 2021

It is not the first announcement the region has seen in recent years regarding passenger rail infrastructure. The idea of ​​the high-speed railroad in southern Ontario has been thrown for years.

In 2018, former Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne announced that the province would invest billions in building a high-speed rail line between London and Toronto that would later extend to Windsor.

The government of Prime Minister Doug Ford cut all capital funding for the project proposed in its budget next year, saying it would instead explore ways to increase existing train speeds and service levels.

At the beginning of last year the province unveiled a draft transportation plan for southwestern Ontario, which included plans to conduct a technical review of the existing railroad to “identify opportunities to increase speed and train service”, and to work with VIA Rail to potentially integrate service with GO Transit and “freight partners in rail access”.

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The province also established a task force consisting of local southwestern Ontario mayors, including Mayor Holder, as well as chiefs and councilors from the area’s First Nations.

“I am confident that this federal government understands what the three issues are in terms of frequency, in terms of top speed, in terms of reliability,” Mayor Holder said.

“I do not think any reasonable taxpayer would say ‘build it and be punished with the cost.’ You need to understand exactly what the costs are and what the consequences are.”

Click to play video: 'High-frequency rail line could shorten travel time between Toronto and Ottawa, says transport minister'

High-frequency rail line could shorten travel time between Toronto and Ottawa, says transport minister

High-frequency rail line could shorten travel time between Toronto and Ottawa, Transport Minister says on July 7, 2021

The holder noted that one of the limitations when it came to improving the current VIA Rail service was the fact that the vast majority of Crown corporate passenger lines use rails which are owned by other rail companies, forcing passenger trains to take a rear seat to transport.

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According to the latest VIA Rail annual report, the organization’s rail service had a performance rate on time of 71 percent in 2020, slightly higher than a year earlier but roughly paired with 2018, 2017 and 2016.

“Does this include the construction of a new track?” I do not know him. “I’m not sure the federal government still knows that, but I think this is certainly one of the parts they need to investigate,” Holder said.

“Does that mean they have to put a better bed on the rails that are there if they do not go to new tracks?” Does it mean more mobility?… This helps in terms of frequency, but what good is mobility if they have the same challenges that we have today? He continued.

“I think it’s fair that they need to understand the cost implications and the implications of people for what that means. I do not think this becomes endless history. The fact that the minister here is a statement to me is not meant to be endless history. “

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Alghabra is expected to hold a similar press conference Thursday in Windsor, according to a government adviser.

Aside from the latest Quebec City-Toronto news, Wednesday’s press conference also comes two months after southwestern Ontario was dealt a blow when Greyhound Canada said it was ending bus service nationwide.

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Several firms have stepped in to fill the gap left by Greyhound’s departure, including the Megabus and Rider Express.

– Files by Andrew Graham, Nick Westoll and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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